Coming into Saturday’s matchup with Alabama, Arizona men’s basketball had struggled defensively, yet to find their cohesiveness on that side of the ball. The Crimson Tide’s Collin Sexton did everything he could to continue that disruption despite losing 88-82 in McKale Center in a key non-conference matchup for both teams.
For Sexton the recap was simple, let the game come to you and take advantage when it does. It wasn’t easy for the freshman in the games opening minutes. Sexton would miss his first couple shots while being guarded by the Wildcats Parker Jackson-Cartwright before fouling twice and sitting until the 10:00 mark of the first half.
Arizona used Jackson-Cartwright and freshman Alex Barcello to shadow Sexton wherever he went, trying to prevent him from getting comfortable.
Down eight points after Arizona went on a run in his absence, Sexton would lead the Crimson Tide back almost immediately, driving to the basket for two and getting fouled on the ensuing possessions to gather six points and heading to the sideline before getting into more foul trouble.
“When I first came out I just had to get a feel of what defense they were going to do,” Sexton said. “Then I just had to get out there and get a flow in the game. In the second half coach told me to attack a little more and find teammates when open.”
He did just that. Let the game come to him and before you know it ended up with a bank 3-point shot to send Alabama into the locker room up by two at the half. The second half would only prove more troublesome for Arizona.
The Wildcats were able to matchup with Sexton 1-on-1 for the most part, using a combination of Jackson-Cartwright and Allonzo Trier. Sexton was only able to score one time in the game without the use of a screen which came late in the game against Trier getting fouled and sent to the free throw line.
Where Sexton was most effective was with the use of the screen, which he used to devastating effect. Whether it was pulling up from long range or driving off a pick, he tallied 21 points in the second half and gave Arizona a scare.
“He was focused and got inside the defense,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “He tried to make the right play for Alabama, that’s what it is all about, trying to make the right play for the University of Alabama.”
Sexton’s night included going 15-of-16 from the free throw line, and 3-of-6 from three before he fouled out in the games final moments.
For Arizona, they improved defensively from where they once were in the Bahamas and in key stretches were able to neutralize Sexton. In a key stretch where Arizona grabbed a hold of the lead, Sexton was blocked by Ira Lee at the rim which led to a breakout layup for Rawle Alkins on the other end.
30 points sounds like a lot, but for the Wildcats, their effort defensively against one of college basketball’s best point guards was respectable. Sometimes great players just find a way, such as Sexton Saturday night.
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